The music of the Mason clan, built on the reputation of late sire Oscar Mason, has long been considered among the best of the best of Antigua and Barbuda’s cultural output. Beginning in the 1930s with the Jitterbug Boys-cum-Antigua Glen Miller Band-cum-Sons of the Vibratone-cum-Mason brothers, Mason and his sons set the standard not only in Antigua but throughout the region – playing as many as 364 shows per year, every night except Good Friday.
Individually, they’ve travelled the globe and backed some of the best in the business since parting ways some 20 or so years ago. The home crowd was reminded of the unparalleled sound of this band of brothers at the 2007 celebrations of Carnival’s 50th anniversary. Since then, they’ve been hungry for more. Appetites will be satiated this Sailing Week season when the Mason Brothers gather for what promises to be a tour-de-force performance at the prize giving ceremony.
First Mason grandson, and leader of the Foreplay band, drummer and vocalist Rico Anthony, a Sugar Club regular has re-constituted the band. On show this Friday will be E-Flat saxophonist Big Boy, tenor saxophonists Tyrone and Gene, trumpeter Robert, bassist O’Neal; and grandsons Rico, trumpeter and fugle horn player O’Neil, and trombonist Gregory. Foreplay regulars Elroy Francis, Ajarni Williams, and Brunsfield JC Joseph will be on keyboards, guitar, and rhythm guitar, respectively. “We’re fitting the Mason Brothers horn section on top of Foreplay,” Rico explained.
If you’ve never heard the Masons play, you can expect big band musicality, with a nuanced harmonic quality, and a catalogue that runs deep – “the full array of music, this is not a calypso night.” Which is not to say that there won’t be calypso mixed in with the funk, pop, rock, jazz and Rhythm and Blues; special guest artiste will be Swallow – one of the Big Three of Antiguan calypso. They’ve been practicing around the clock in the hopes of delighting old and winning new fans. Rico is sure Friday night’s event will appeal to grown folks, hungry for a bit of diversity in the musical landscape. “We’re not about noise, we’re about quality and texture,” he promises. And anyone who knows the Mason sound will know this to be true.
“Footsteps were made in the sand before me,” Rico reflects on the Mason legacy, “and I have to put my foot in those shoes…I feel that I have something to live up to.”
This is a rare opportunity as it’s not easy to get these in-demand musicians in one place, but Rico promises it won’t be a one-off; plus he’s promising fans an even less common treat of a new Mason single for purchase before the season’s done. Look out for it; mean time, come jam to it this Friday at Sugar Club.
Be sure to check other Sugar Club regulars as well: Foreplay on Monday, Soul Sessions and ‘2 for 1 steak night’ on Wednesday, seafood night – Fridays – at the piano bar with Vincent Blaize, and lunch at Carmichael’s on Sundays.
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